Saturday, August 14, 2004

Weather, Cats and Grammar

The weather in Memphis this summer has been spectacular. We've only had a relative handful of days with temps in the 90s, when the norm recently is to have most of the summer there or in the 100s. Temps have been running consistently 10 to 20 degrees below normal. This week an Arctic front blew through and highs haven't gotten out of the 70s! Overnight lows are comfortably in the 50s. I haven't had the air conditioning on in three days.

The only problems is mosquitos. If I leave the windows open into dark, they find their way in and start to feast. Worst is overnight. I'll wake up with bits all over my hands and shoulder and feet. But it's a small price to pay for the gloriousness that is Summer 2004.

There's also a beautiful scent in the air. It's like a pine-spiced version of dry, cut grass, the old late summer staple. Whatever the source, it's relaxing and welcome.

My cat Bennie is loving it, too. She'll normally sleep the afternoon away in her hidey hole under the kitchen cabinet. Around dinner time, she'll appear and check things out, then nap some more until sunset. With the bedroom window fan running, she's been napping on the bedspread, under the breeze and with the afternoon sun warming her up. She's in heaven.

The first night after the front blew through, she was as energised as I've seen her. She was exploring everything like it was new. Tail up, zipping this way and that around the apartment. Running inside and outside and back again. She'd slow down a moment to recharge her battery, then ZING! she was off again. She was like a kitten again. That's my girl.

Now to grammar. Let's discuss the proper spelling of "y'all." That's the proper spelling, OK? It is not ya'll. Why, you ask? Because y'all is a contraction of "you all." Listen to a Southerner speak and you'll hear the elided "oo" sound, almost.

Why the confusion? Maybe it's from Northerners picking up the phrase. Up North, and especially around New York City, the word "you" is often pronounced "ya." As in "Whaddaya lookin' at?" or "Ged oudda here, ya mug." So it would be natural to assume it's the "all" being elided since they shorten and change the end of "you."

At least that's my theory and I'm stickin' with it. Y'all just keep it straight, OK?

But my biggest grammar peeve is the usage of "to try and." There is no "to try and!" As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try." You cannot try and mail a letter. If you try and succeed, you have mailed the letter!

The correct expression is "to try to." I'm going to try to mail the letter. I might fail; I might succeed. I won't know until I try.

Don't ever let me catch y'all sayin' "I'll try and do that." again, OK?

Lastly, just a little word to folks from outside the South who wonder what "fixin'" means. It's not a home repair term. "I'm fixin' to go to the store." means you are about to go to the store, not right away but real soon. Could be a few minutes from now, but might be a bit later if something important comes up. It's as much about intent and plans as it is about motion.

And you don't pronounce it "fixing." OK? It's "fixin'" or fick-sin. Or if you're rural and black, it's closer to fissin. In fact, the word "to" is often folded in with "fixin'" to get something like fick-sin-na. I'm fick-sin-na godatha stoar.

And in some parts of the Deep South, "store" is a two-syllable word: "stow-urr."

Alright, class dismissed.

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